Brand protection in retail has taken on a new meaning since COVID with safety at the forefront of a customer’s mind. In this recent McKinsey article about customer perception through the lens of COVID, “particularly in times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a company can trigger an immediate and lingering effect on his or her sense of trust and loyalty.”
This sense of loyalty and trust felt by the public is likely to impact not only your business but also how you are viewed during litigation.
Halo Effect Examined
The “halo effect” refers to forming positive impressions of a company, brand, or person based on an unrelated judgment or impression. In formulating case themes and reaching liability and damages evaluation, your legal counsel should be considering how your business may be viewed, in light of the impact of COVID 19. Ensure that you are apprising your attorneys of any pandemic-related changes to your operation, including any modifications that were made in order to serve and protect the public. These may include providing hand sanitizer stations, having greeters checking for masks on customers, installing Plexiglas at check out, and implementing enhanced deep cleaning protocols.
It is also important to stay attuned to the changing and emerging perceptions of potential jurors on your business. Magna Legal Services, a leading litigation and jury research consulting company, recently conducted a national survey in order to better understand which industries might benefit from the “halo effect.” When asking respondents which types of businesses are essential, retailers were well represented in their results:
- Grocery stores – 82%
- Hospitals – 80%
- Doctors’ offices – 78%
- Pharmacies – 77%
- Banks – 70%
- Consumer delivery services – 62%
- Big box stores – 53%
Be sure to challenge your attorneys to think more broadly than they may have in the past when formulating their defense. Litigation post-COVID-19 continues to evolve. While courts in some jurisdictions are slowly starting to open, driving litigation forward and resolving cases requires attorneys, clients, and claims professionals to be innovative in their approach and open to the increased use of technology. Court hearings, depositions, mediations, and even trials are still being conducted virtually at a far greater rate than ever before. Where in-person trials are occurring, they look very different than what we are used to seeing. Adaptability to change is critical in order to be successful.
The Importance of Impressions and Beliefs
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winning Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs says, “If people are failing, they look inept. If people are succeeding, they look strong and good and competent. That's the 'halo effect.' Your first impression of a thing sets up your subsequent beliefs. If the company looks inept to you, you may assume everything else they do is inept.”
When your brand is being represented, select counsel who are agile, considering all factors in their defense of your claims. Associating your program with those who are skilled in driving litigation and optimal claim resolutions, will protect and enhance your brand reputation in the courtroom.
One of the ways in which you can identify top performing attorneys is through a well-thought-out legal dashboard that considers not only your case outcomes (loss and expense development, expense to loss ratio and case duration), but even identifies the firm’s ability to impact your results by factors such as timely and effective communication, and fiscal stewardship. For example, GB’s LegalScore solution does the work for the Risk Manager, by factoring and analyzing both objective and subjective factors that affect claim outcomes. This provides a multi-dimensional assessment of law firm performance.
While there will continue to be more changes and challenges in post COVID tort litigation, by working closely with your claim professionals and selecting the right attorneys you can not only drive litigation and achieve optimal claim resolutions but also maximize your business’s “halo effect.”
Mary McGurn has 30 + years of industry experience and leads the Retail Practice at GB. You can find her on LinkedIn.
Chris Carucci has 20 years of industry experience, with an emphasis on litigation management initiatives. You can find him on LinkedIn.